Let’s face it – how often do you use your smartphone while behind the wheel? Whether it’s playing Pokemon GO, you know, on the go, or simply sending a message while waiting at a traffic light, the truth is that distracted driving is on the rise.

Toyota is battling this behaviour by rewarding drivers who keep their smartphones face down while driving. Its new app, Driving Barista, is a collaboration between the world’s largest carmaker, coffee retailer Komeda and telecommunications giant KDDI, and is part of a wider effort aimed reducing the number of accidents in Toyota’s home prefecture of Aichi.

First, a bit of background – Aichi Prefecture has had the highest rate of traffic fatalities in Japan for 13 years straight. It recorded 44,369 incidents resulting in injury or death in 2015 alone, and has also made 50,101 arrests involving the use of smartphones while driving, a statistic that is increasing.

Not keen on continuing its unenviable accident-prone run, the prefecture initiated the Aichi: No Longer the Worst project on August 2, involving 10 media companies based in the capital city of Nagoya; Toyota and KDDI are also its sponsors.


The Driving Barista traffic safety initiative, said to be the first in Japan to utilise a smartphone app, is a limited-time project in tandem with the Japanese government’s 2016 Traffic Safety Campaign, happening from September 21 to 30. The project is limited to the Aichi Prefecture.

How the system works is simple – the app utilises the gyro sensor within the phone to detect if the device is placed face down, and GPS to calculate the distance driven with phone positioned in this way. If the driver travels a cumulative distance of 100 km (and every 200 km thereafter) without turning their phone around, they will receive a coupon for a cup of blended or iced coffee at a Komeda Coffee Shop.

It is hoped that the application will raise drivers’ awareness about the dangers of using smartphones while driving. According to one survey, around 60% of respondents admitted to using their devices behind the wheel, with approximately half of them keeping only one hand on the steering wheel.

The initiative kicks off today, September 20, and runs until October 6. Users in the Aichi Prefecture can cash in their coupons any time from now until October 31.